Chad Griffin, the Arkansas native who now heads the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s leading LGBT civil rights organization, wrote a poignant op-ed Thursday in the LA Times for National Coming Out Day.. It was about his struggle to tell his father about his sexual orientation and a letter he never had the courage to send before his father died. He makes the larger point:
Saturday is National Coming Out Day. For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans all across this country, coming out is one of the hardest things they will ever do. No matter what state you call home, a conservative church or community or even your own family can inadvertently force you to suffer in silence. Even today, living openly in the face of that pressure can require almost superhuman personal strength.
And yet showing that courage is essential — in fact it is the only way the LGBT community has made progress. Coming out doesn’t simply boost an LGBT person’s well-being and self-esteem, it plays an active role in changing the world. Today, 8 in 10 Americans say they personally know an LGBT person. This plays a direct role in the growing political support for equality. After all, once you know LGBT people as your neighbors, your children, your shopkeepers, coworkers, teachers and friends, it becomes almost impossible to oppose their legal equality and basic human dignity.
Even at this moment of historic victories for LGBT equality, we can never forget that progress isn’t just about what the Supreme Court says in a ruling. As Americans — and especially as allies — we’ve each got a personal responsibility to change this country person by person, neighbor by neighbor, family by family, kind word by kind word.
If you feel that you’re not presently living as openly as you could, consider changing that on Saturday. And if someone close to you chooses Saturday — or any other day — to honor you by revealing the truth about his or her life, know what courage it took to do so and offer every reassurance and affirmation you can.
For me personally, I go to work every day to make sure nobody ever again has to fear sending an honest letter to a loved one the way I did.
It is still a struggle. Witness: Comments by the likes of Mike Huckabee this week and the pitched battle (led by church people) in Fayetteville to protect legal discrimination against gay people in housing and employment.
But then there is good news — out and proud people and their friends and family on parade in Little Rock last week, including a contingent of friends from the Arkansas Times.